To Journey, With Meaning
Vinod Sreedhar is a Goa-based social entrepreneur and environmental educator working in the realm of Systems Thinking.
In 1996, he decided to walk out of college -- he was studying Commerce in Bombay -- and started composing and producing music for the advertising industry. India's newly liberalized economy was seeing massive growth in new television and radio channels. A few years later, somewhat disillusioned by the purely commercial focus of the ad industry, he co-founded and ran a social enterprise, Phase Five, between 2000 and 2007 with friends. Phase Five facilitated workshops and projects on Active Citizenship, Democracy, and Waste Management for some of India's top colleges and organizations like the British Council, the World Bank, and Praja Foundation, a Mumbai-based NGO working on building participation among the citizens of Mumbai.
In 2006, an encounter with a climate change-driven event - a massive cloudburst in Ladakh - helped birth his next venture, Journeys with Meaning (JwM). With highways washed away and closed, he used the time to understand why a high-altitude desert region was facing rainfall of such intensity. His conversations with the local community revealed the extent of the changes due to climate change and increased human action in cities. In these events, he started to see larger disconnects as the root causes; the disconnects between humans and nature, between different human cultures, between head and heart, and between our actions and their consequences. Since he had prioritized learning by doing for himself and found it very helpful, Vinod felt it would be a powerful learning experience for people to travel across India to better understand these disconnects and see how they were directly or indirectly leading to the vital issues of the day.
JwM operated on the Gift Economy model for six years. Participants could pay whatever they wanted or nothing, apart from costs, instead of being charged a fixed fee. JwM built its reputation for immersive and responsible travel in this period. Due to challenging personal circumstances, Vinod had to drop the full-time Gift Economy model in 2012 for a more conventional pricing model. Since then, JwM has made a place for supporting Gift Economy by reserving some seats in every learning journey or workshop, for people with financial constraints. They are encouraged to pay what they can or supported through external sponsorships. Many have also chosen to volunteer their time or skills in exchange for their costs being waived entirely or partially.
In 2015, JwM started offering learning journeys to schools through its JwM Juniors program. This was conceptualized and designed by Neha, Vinod's partner, who had recently joined the team. These learning journeys for schools have become a mainstay and they now focus on working mostly with students. Students have loved their experiences and the trips to Ladakh, in particular, have helped JwM win the GOLD award in the Best Experiential Travel category in the Indian Responsible Tourism Awards 2019.
With COVID affecting travel-based organizations hugely, JwM has been put on the back-burner while Vinod works on his new venture, All Systems Reboot (ASR).
His intent with ASR is to integrate three seemingly disconnected areas -- the personal, the professional, and the planetary -- so that people can take their cue from Nature -- an interconnected whole -- and bring conscious wholeness into their lives once again, by rebooting, and redesigning what life and work mean to us, while also giving energy and time to the only planet we can call home.
Vinod's journey has been about learning, and sharing, what disconnects we live with and relearning how we can live and grow in communities that nurture us and our home.